Back in the days when Eugene O’Neill ruled Broadway, he thought nothing of unleashing plays so long that the producers had to build in a dinner break — enough time for audiences to leave the theater and have a sit-down meal.
This season, though, O’Neill’s Broadway offering — a revival of “The Iceman Cometh,” starring Denzel Washington — clocks in at under four hours. For a true marathon, two other shows have it beat: “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” (more than five hours, plus the dinner break) and “Angels in America” (seven and a half hours, plus the dinner break). Each is a two-part play, and you don’t have to see both parts in a single day. But there’s a sense of adventure to doing it all at once.
With performances that long, the experience becomes a question of endurance — and planning. When you spill out of “Angels” between the first and second parts, you’ll have more than two hours before the show starts again; for “Cursed Child,” more than two and a half. It’s a yawning gap at an awkward time of day: from late afternoon to early evening. How to fill it? The easiest answer: Eat.
The usual challenge of dining around Times Square — how to find a restaurant that’s not aimed at the lowest common denominator? — is exacerbated by the timing of the dinner breaks, which put audience members on the street when many places aren’t yet open for dinner. Here are some spots that take reservations (crucial if you’re going to have a relaxing time) and open their doors by 5 p.m. Three, in the West 40s, are a leisurely walk from “Cursed Child.”
BAR CENTRALE With its unmarked entrance, up a set of steps near Joe Allen, Bar Centrale always feels a little like a theater insider’s clubby secret, which it emphatically is not. But it is an intimate, casually elegant refuge where you can get drinks, hors d’oeuvres and even a little something more substantial — though as the name suggests, it’s a bar, not a restaurant. (324 West 46th Street; 212-581-3130, barcentralenyc.com)
GLORIA The location of this self-described pescatarian restaurant hits a sweet spot for “Angels” marathoners: an easy saunter from the Neil Simon Theater, but far enough west that they can escape the theater district for Hell’s Kitchen. And even with its emphasis on fish, the menu offers some vegetarian and vegan options. (401 West 53rd Street; 212-956-0709, gloria-nyc.com)
HAKKASAN The Times restaurant critic Pete Wells wrote last year that it’s “worth enduring” this spot’s “Orientalist nightclub atmosphere and mildly preposterous prices for high-style Cantonese cuisine that is often superb, particularly the dumplings and other dim sum dishes.” To accommodate the marathon crowd, it now opens at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. (311 West 43rd Street; 212-776-1818, hakkasan.com)
SEN SAKANA Mr. Wells also recommended this spot, which he said “offers a rare opportunity to taste Peru’s version of Japanese food (or maybe it’s Japan’s version of Peruvian food): ceviches and tiraditos, skewered meats and vegetables grilled over charcoal, and sushi that ranges from simple to wildly inventive.” (28 West 44th Street; 212-221-9560, sensakana.com.)
T45 There’s nothing fancy about this easy-to-miss restaurant, tucked inside the ground floor of the Hyatt Centric Times Square hotel. What makes it a valuable neighborhood standby is the breadth of its contemporary American menu, ranging from short rib sliders and mac and cheese to kale salad and vegan fare. (135 West 45th Street; 646-364-1234, timessquare.centric.hyatt.com/en/hotel/dining/t45-restaurant.html)
If it looks like the weather will be marvelous, how about a picnic in Bryant Park? On the Avenue of the Americas, between West 40th and West 42nd Streets, it’s closer to “Cursed Child” than “Angels,” but doable for both. Amid the chaos and sensory overload of Midtown, it’s a tree-lined oasis with a lush green lawn, a profusion of weathered bistro tables, an old-fashioned carousel for the little ones to ride and plenty of space to run around after sitting still so long.
Bringing your picnic spread into the theater is probably a bad idea, but there’s a Whole Foods across the street where you can pick up fixings from the deli. There are also food kiosks in the park, and a casual burger joint called Southwest Porch where you can have a drink alfresco. (The park does have lovely attended restrooms, by the way. But be prepared for a line.) Bonus: Since Bryant Park is in effect the backyard of the New York Public Library, it’s an easy trip around the front to visit Patience and Fortitude, the famous stone lions that flank its entrance. (bryantpark.org)
People-watching never goes out of style in Times Square, and after all it’s free. But just around the block from “Cursed Child” are a couple of immersive, interactive experiences worth considering, especially if you’d rather grab a quick bite for dinner than a full restaurant meal. That would leave plenty of time for either of these stroll-through entertainments, each of which adults and children alike could spend an hour or more enjoying. Both display a level of spectacle and design worthy of the neighborhood.
GULLIVER’S GATE bills itself as a museum of miniatures, but that makes it sound fusty. There’s a playfulness to the creation of its Lilliputian world that’s terribly winning. Take, for example, its charmingly detailed model of New York City, where you can turn a key in a keyhole, and a procession of parade floats starts moving though the Midtown streets. This is a contemporary landscape, mostly, but look closely at the Hudson River and you’ll spy a wounded Alexander Hamilton being rowed back toward Manhattan as Aaron Burr stands, agitated, on the New Jersey dock. There’s a lot to see — whole other continents, including Europe, where you can turn a key to make Santa’s sleigh fly over Stockholm — but do not miss the sprawling airport in this model paradise. The jets there taxi, speed down the runway and, ingeniously, take off. (216 West 44th Street; gulliversgate.com)
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ENCOUNTER: OCEAN ODYSSEY hints at its flair for stagecraft the moment you enter its doors and step onto a blue-lit escalator, where a curtain of fog streams down from above: like a waterfall you glide through without getting wet. The whole high-tech experience — the floors that respond to your footsteps, making schools of little fish scatter wherever you walk; the digital sea lions that mirror your movements as you stand in front of their screens — takes you deep into the Pacific Ocean and lets you spy on what you see. There’s a dramatic battle to the death between two Humboldt squid, and a 3-D movie that feels, as you watch, like standing on the bow of a transparent submarine. But the trippiest bit, the one part that seems like something out of Harry Potter, is when you navigate a mirror maze through a kelp forest. Keep your hands out in front of you and you’ll be fine — no dragons here. (226 West 44th Street; natgeoencounter.com)
BETHESDA FOUNTAIN The action in “Angels in America” ends at this fountain in Central Park, about 20 blocks uptown from the Neil Simon Theater. If you’re feeling adventurous — and like you’d be O.K. buying a pretzel from a cart to tide you over — it’d be a lovely place to spend a dinner break. You could walk, but it’s probably easiest to take a cab to West 72nd Street and Central Park West, and go on foot from there.
GREENWICH VILLAGE Or you could hop on the downtown 1 train for a quick ride to the Village, and the former site of St. Vincent’s Hospital, which cared for many AIDS patients when the epidemic raged. You have to look closely to see the traces of what the building, which now houses luxury residences, used to be: the nurses carved in stone above doorways on West 12th Street, the name of the hospital still inscribed over an entrance on West 11th. Then grab a slice of pizza at the Two Boots on the corner, take it across the street to the New York City AIDS Memorial Park at St. Vincent’s Triangle, and stay a while.
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